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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame & the Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom> UNP Ceylon Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala at Bandung, 1955

INTERNATIONAL FRAME &
THE STRUGGLE for Tamil Eelam

UNP Ceylon Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala at Bandung, 1955

An Asian Prime Minister's Story, 1956

"I am an uncompromising opponent of Communism. In the course of my observations (at Bandung) I said: 'There is another form of colonialism, however, about which many of us represented here are perhaps less clear in our minds and to which some of us would perhaps not agree to apply the term colonialism at all. Think, for example, of those satellite States under Communist domination in Central and Eastern Europe—of Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia, and Poland. Are not these colonies as much as any of the colonial territories in Africa or Asia? And if we are united in our opposition to colonialism, should it not be our duty openly to declare our opposition to Soviet colonialism as much as to Western imperialism?' I finished amid silence. Then the silence broke. Chou En-lai got up in marked agitation and said that, as I had made references to Communist colonialism, he reserved the right to make a statement and that he would do so on the following morning. The atmosphere was electric as we marched out of the room. Chou asked me why I had said what I did, and whether it was my intention to break up the Conference... Nehru came up to me and asked me in some heat, "Why did you do that, Sir John? Why did you not show me your speech before you made it?" .. the only obvious reply I could make was, "Why should I? Do you show me yours before you make them?"

[see also India & the Bandung Conference - N.D.Jayaprakash]


....Bogor was the prelude to Bandung [Conference, 18-24 April 1955]. If the Colombo Conference of the five Prime Ministers was my "brainchild" (as Nehru put it appreciatively) the Bandung Conference of Asian-African nations was the brain-child of Ali Sastroamidjojo. After Colombo the five Prime Ministers had been trying to meet again, on the eve of S.E.A.T.O. and in order to discuss S.E.A.T.O., but for various reasons a suitable opportunity could not be found, and the discussions had to be conducted by correspondence. Some time later the Prime Minister of Indonesia suggested a meeting in December, and invited us to meet in Indonesia. The meeting was arranged for the end of December to suit my convenience, as I was in any case due to visit Indonesia about that time on my way back home from my world tour.

A conclusion of the Colombo Conference that passed almost unnoticed at the time it was arrived at was to the effect that the Prime Ministers discussed the desirability of holding a conference of Asian-African nations, and favoured a proposal that the Prime Minister of Indonesia explore the possibility of such a conference. Sastroamidjojo had put forward the idea in his opening address itself to the Colombo Conference. He was very keen on it, but the others were not sure how it would work out, especially remembering the magnitude of the proposal, and suggested that he should first consult the countries that would be concerned and see if they would be prepared to participate. Many other implications too had to be considered: finance, accommodation, organization.

Nothing daunted, Sastroamidjojo went to work, and he presently reported to the other four Prime Ministers that the response he had received was extremely satisfactory. He suggested our meeting to consider and complete plans...The conference in Bogor lasted a day and a half. Our main business was a discussion of the possibilities of holding a conference of Asian and African nations, although we did review the world situation once again, and also discussed such things as economic co-operation and the like. We were much struck by the results of the soundings taken by the Prime Minister of Indonesia. Almost every one whom he had approached had been eager to come to the conference, and all that remained for us was to decide whom to invite. That was not difficult in one way, but it was difficult in another.

We decided that all countries in Asia and Africa which had independent Governments should be invited. But there were a few snags. Communist China had to be invited, because she was the de facto Government of the country, and because she had been recognized diplomatically by most countries, although not by the United Nations. By the same token Nationalist China could not be invited. We would have been glad to invite Israel, but if Israel had been invited none of the Arab States would have come. We did not think it necessary to invite the two Koreas in the existing state of affairs in their peninsula, but we decided to invite the Gold Coast, which, although not fully independent, was very nearly so. In the end there were twenty-five countries to invite, and, together with the five sponsoring countries, Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, the list of prospective participants was thirty. The following was the complete list:

Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Central African Federation, Ceylon, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Viet Nam (North), Viet Nam (South), and Yemen.

The five Prime Ministers made clear the purposes for which the conference was to be called:

(a) to promote goodwill and co-operation among the nations of Asia and Africa; to explore and advance their mutual as well as common interests; and to establish and further friendliness and neighbourly relations.

(b) to consider the social, economic, and cultural problems and relations of the countries represented.

(c) to consider problems of special interest to Asian and African peoples—e.g., problems affecting national sovereignty and of racialism and colonialism.

(d) to view the position of Asia and Africa and their peoples in the world of today and the contribution they can make to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.

The Bogor Communiqué was also particular to explain that any country could attend the Asian-African Conference without compromising its relations with any other country that attended:

The Prime Ministers wished to point out that acceptance of the invitation by any one country would in no way involve or even imply any change in its view of the status of any other country. It implied only that the country invited was in general agreement with the purposes of the conference. They had also borne in mind the principle that the form of government and the way of life of any one country should in no way be subject to interference by another. Any view expressed at the conference by one or more participating country would not be binding on or be regarded as accepted by any other, unless the latter so desired. The basic purpose of the conference is that the countries concerned should become better acquainted with one another's point of view. The Prime Ministers hoped that this clarification would enable all the invited countries to accept their invitation.

The Communiqué went on further to emphasize that it was not the intention of the conference to encourage separatism among nations, or to organize a regional bloc which was in apartheid from the rest of the world:

The Prime Ministers wished to state that in seeking to convene an Asian-African Conference, they were not actuated by any desire for exclusiveness in respect of the membership of the conference. They did not desire either that the participating countries should build themselves into a regional bloc.

The stage was now set for Bandung.

I feel certain that the newspapers must have been sorely tempted to speak of the Babel of Bandung. But there was no Babel in Bandung. All the races of the world were there—including American newsmen—but they were able to speak in one tongue. One felt grateful to the English for their language. Nor was there any confusion. The delegations alone amounted to over three hundred strong, and there were a vast number of newspaper correspondents, observers and others, from the four corners of the earth, crowding the streets, the hotels, the corridors of buildings.

The arrangements that had been made for the reception, accommodation, and care of this multitude were as perfect as could be. It was indeed a feat of organization, and reflected the greatest credit on the Indonesian Government, especially considering that there had been less than four months between Bogor and Bandung. True, the expenses were being shared among the five sponsoring Governments, who acted as hosts, and there was a Joint Secretariat formed among these five, but there was no doubt that the weight of organization was borne on Indonesian shoulders.....

I undertook the writing of this book because of the world interest aroused in certain things I said and did at Bandung. I must therefore pass on to matters that are more relevant to my central theme.

I am an uncompromising opponent of Communism. This I am not through some `cussedness' in me, but because I am convinced that Communism is a wrong thing. At the same time I am willing to concede their Communism to the countries that believe in it, and, more than all else, I want peace in the world (although never peace at any price). I was therefore, while at Bandung, anxious to see if there was anything I could do to help in tackling the trouble in China which was offering the biggest threat to peace.

I did not get any opportunity at the conference table, because Formosa had been kept out of the discussions, and because China too refrained, wisely, from bringing the subject up. But I busied myself outside the conference. Chou agreed to a suggestion I made that the five Colombo Powers have a friendly chat with him at a private and informal meal. We met for lunch at Sastroamidjojo's house, and there were also present Prince Wan Waithayakon, of Thailand, and Carlos Romulo, of the Philippines (whom we asked as representing, by their connexions, the other side). We had an open and sincere talk, and Chou said that he would be perfectly willing to sit down and have a friendly discussion of the Formosa situation with America, although he added that he could not give up the position that Formosa rightfully belonged to the People's Republic. This was a significant departure from his previous attitude, and we sent a message to the American Government through Mohammed Ali of Pakistan.

My own solution for Formosa was that she should be handed over to the Formosans themselves, and not allowed to pass under the dominion of either China. I had understood that, historically, Formosa had had an independence of her own, and that she no more belonged to China than Ceylon did to India, although the Sinhalese were racially of Indian stock. Chou En-lai would, of course, not agree, but I explained my point of view at a Press interview, where I said:

"I maintain that our sympathies should lie with the people of Formosa—an unhappy country whose movements for national independence have almost invariably met with defeat. Should we, merely because our own struggles for freedom have been more fortunate than those of the Formosans, refuse to recognize the genuineness of their aspiration to live their own life without subjection to any foreign authority? Why should we lend our support to the imposition on them of the rule of either the Government of the People's Republic of China or of the Chinese Nationalists? As Asian and African peoples, many of whom have been the victims of colonialism until recently, we should urge that Formosa must belong to the Formosans, and that these unfortunate people should, as speedily as possible, take their place with us as a free nation."

I also expressed myself on the subject of co-existence. I did not have the opportunity of doing so at the Conference itself, but I made my observations to the Press. I am all for co-existence, and, as I have so often said, it is, properly conceived, the only alternative we have to destruction and death. But co-existence cannot be a one-sided affair, and what is the guarantee that the story of the camel in the Arab's tent will not be repeated when we agree to co-exist?

I pointed out that an essential preliminary to co-existence was the cessation of international Communism, and that the Communist countries should give up interference, overt or covert, in the countries of others. I particularly emphasized that the Cominform, that international symbol of subversion, should be dissolved before the free world could agree to co-existence. I put this to Chou En-lai too, and his reply was that the Cominform was a Russian organization, and had nothing to do with China. My rejoinder was that he should use his good offices with his ally in Moscow to have it disbanded.

I did not drop a bombshell in Bandung, as some people think. It was far from my intention to do anything like that, and I was only stating my genuine convictions when I made my now famous remarks to the Conference on the subject of colonialism. The subject had been under discussion for more than one day, and speaker after speaker attacked it, vehemently, from the angle of the 'classical' colonialism from which so many of their countries had suffered. They were also discussing it not so much in general terms as from the point of view of the briefs they were holding for individual territories that were yet under alien subjection—Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Men, the West Irian.

It was now nearly five in the evening, and in the loud and confused eloquence I had not been able to catch the Chairman's eye or reach his ear. I very nearly gave up, but by one last effort I succeeded. In the course of my observations I said:

"There is another form of colonialism, however, about which many of us represented here are perhaps less clear in our minds and to which some of us would perhaps not agree to apply the term colonialism at all. Think, for example, of those satellite States under Communist domination in Central and Eastern Europe—of Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia, and Poland. Are not these colonies as much as any of the colonial territories in Africa or Asia? And if we are united in our opposition to colonialism, should it not be our duty openly to declare our opposition to Soviet colonialism as much as to Western imperialism?"

I finished amid silence. Then the silence broke. Chou En-lai got up in marked agitation and said that, as I had made references to Communist colonialism, he reserved the right to make a statement and that he would do so on the following morning. Nehru was even more agitated. He declared that I had strayed from the subject, and inquired if I wanted to be a disturber of the peace. He added that India and other countries had diplomatic relations with some of the "satellites" I had mentioned. So how could they not be properly independent?

That quickly brought others to their feet. Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon were united in the view that I was right in what I had said, and in the midst of the excitement the Chairman adjourned the meeting till the morrow.

The atmosphere was electric as we marched out of the room. Chou asked me why I had said what I did, and whether it was my intention to break up the Conference. I inquired if it was his intention to do so, because if he had not entered his protest and shown such evident feeling the discussion would have merely ended with the speech I made. His good humour was restored, but Nehru came up to me and asked me in some heat, "Why did you do that, Sir John? Why did you not show me your speech before you made it?"

I have no doubt the remark was well meant, but the only obvious reply I could make was, "Why should I? Do you show me yours before you make them?"

I have no desire to record this incident, but I do so because it was reported in the world Press (with some embellishments too) immediately after it happened. Nehru and I are the best of friends. I have the highest regard for him, and especially for his disinterestedness in all that he says and does, and the incident must have been as quickly forgotten by him as it was by me.

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